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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

May 27, 2013

Stanford GSB: Additional Info, Resume, Employment History, Activities for Class of 2016 Admission

This is the fifth of five posts analyzing the Stanford GSB MBA Essay Questions for Class of 2016 Admission. The five posts are overall commentsEssay 1Essay 2Essay 3, and additional information/resume/employment history/activities. My analysis of Stanford GSB interviews can be found here. In addition to the Class of 2016 posts, I al so recommend reading and/or listening to my presentation, So you want to get into Stanford GSB?” which was made to a Japanese audience in March 2011. That presentation focuses on issues that are applicable to all applicants as well as some issues specific to Japanese applicants.

You can find results and/or testimonials from my clients admitted to to the Stanford Classes of 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010 here.  My full Stanford results prior to the Class of 2014 can be found here. My clients admitted to Stanford GSB have come from China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States and have had extremely diverse professional and educational backgrounds. The advice I provide below is based on that experience.

There is nothing more depressing to me than to look at an MBA application that is hastily put together. Worse still if it is for a school that is hard to get into. Worse yet if it is for Stanford, where, under Derrick Bolton, there is a very rigorous approach to application review.
The application form, transcript, and resume all play a significant role in the evaluation of your suitability for admission.  Given  that Stanford GSB is evaluating your intellectual vitality, demonstrated leadership potential, personal qualities, and qualifications, you can be certain that beyond your essays, the rest of the application will be highly scrutinized to determine how you benchmark against these criteria.
Some people look at application forms as mere forms. I look at them as opportunities  to provide admissions with as complete and impressive presentation as one can. The reason admissions made the application was because they need the information to make a decision about you, so don’t provide something that is done at the last minute. For a full analysis of an MBA online application, see here.

Resume & Employment History:


Along with the essays, the resume and Employment History are the most critical documents that you control. Both should present you as effectively and honestly as possible. These two values are not in conflict: Be honest, be thorough, and do not be humble. You are being judged by your professional experience and this is where they get your complete record of it.  Please see here for the resume template that many of my clients admitted to Stanford and other top programs have used. Since Stanford generally prefers a one-page resume, my suggestion is to provide that if at all feasible. You can always submit a second page of your resume as supplemental if absolutely necessary. Still, I am advising all my clients to keep it to a page this year. Previously Stanford, did not indicate a preference for one page over two pages in the instructions, but this year they have.

At a Stanford presentation in Tokyo back a few years ago, the admissions officer emphasized that the admissions committee closely reads transcripts. While you don’t control the content at this point, you have the possibility of impacting how the transcript is interpreted. Scrutinize your own transcript. If your GPA is high, this is easy. You can relax. If on the other hand,your transcript reveals an unimpressive GPA, some very low grades, gaps in study, or anything else that concerns you, you had better figure out how to address in the Additional Information section.

Additional Information: Use it or don’t use it, but don’t abuse it.

Additional Information

If you read the above, it should be clear enough that this is the place to explain anything negative or potentially negative in your background or to provide additional information that did not fit in the space provided. DO NOT USE IT FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE. Yes, you may have written a great essay for Tuck, Wharton, Harvard, Chicago, NYU, MIT, INSEAD, Columbia, or London Business School, but unless your objective is to inform Stanford GSB about that, don’t include it here. I don’t think the categories above require interpretation as they are clear.

If you really have no explanation for something negative, don’t bother writing about it. For example if your GPA is 2.9 and you have no good explanation for why it is 2.9, don’t bother writing something that looks like a lame excuse. This is more likely to hurt than help you. In the same vein, don’t waste the committee’s time telling them that your GMAT is a much better indicator than your GPA (the opposite is also true). They have heard it before and they will look at both scores and can draw their own conclusions without you stating the obvious. That said, if you have a good explanation for a bad GPA, you should most certainly write about it.

ALMOST EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING THEY WANT TO EXPLAIN. It might be small or it might be large, but if you don’t give your interpretation of something that may look odd in your application, why assume that someone reviewing it will interpret in a manner favorable to you?   Your objective is to always provide the admissions reader with an interpretation, especially of something you think is relatively obvious and potentially negative.

We do not expect every applicant to be involved in activities outside the classroom or workplace.
This section is important. Of course, some applicants will not have much here, while others will have a plethora of things to mention. In any case, provide the best answer you can. Use your judgment about what to include. The above instructions make it very clear that Stanford GSB is not looking for quantity. Give them quality and don’t mention anything that will show your lack of commitment: If you joined a lot of organizations for a really short time and did nothing, I don’t think that it will help you to mention it.
Finally, please keep in mind that there is no perfect applicant, just like there is no perfect human being. If you have had to work 100-plus hours a week since graduating from university and your idea of extracurricular activity is sleep, don’t assume that not having any great activities will hurt you. Admissions will evaluate your whole application. I have had the opportunity to work with great applicants who were admitted to Stanford GSB, and I can say none of them were perfect, but what they were able to do was present themselves as honestly and effectively as possible. Some had amazing extracurricular activities, while others really did not having much worth mentioning.

Finally, I plea with you to give yourself enough time to do a first class job on the entire application. I can’t guarantee that doing a great job on the application form will get you into the Stanford Class of 2016, but if you make it part of your overall approach to applying, it will not hurt either.  Given the central importance of the resume to the interview process at Stanford, it is critical that you give that document the time and attention that it deserves. Best of luck!

-Adam Markus
I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.
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